ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students

ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students
© Greg Nash

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is slamming Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump aides pushed for states' ability to block migrant kids from enrolling in public schools: report Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid Buttigieg to Detroit audience: Don't judge Indiana by Pence and we won't judge Michigan by DeVos MORE after she said Tuesday that schools should decide whether to report undocumented students to immigration enforcement officials.

During DeVos’s testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralCongressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Congressional Hispanic Caucus members call for diversity within the Fed Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE (D-N.Y.) grilled the Education secretary for her stance on immigration enforcement.

“Inside the school, if a principal or a teacher finds out that a certain child is undocumented, or his or her family members are undocumented, do you feel that the principal or teacher is responsible to call [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and to have that family reported?” Espaillat asked DeVos.

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“Sir, I think that’s a school decision,” DeVos said in response. “That’s a local community decision. And again, I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate, and I urge this body to do its job and address or clarify where there is confusion around this.” 

In a statement, the ACLU disagreed with DeVos, citing the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, which makes clear that public schools are obligated by the Constitution to provide schooling for children, regardless of their immigration status, The Washington Post reports.

“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status,” ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns said in a statement obtained by the Post. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”

The exchange arrives amid an ongoing immigration debate under the Trump administration, with the president threatening to send leaders of so-called sanctuary cities to jail and an increase in immigration enforcement. 

Immigration agents have historically avoided schools, according to the Post. A memo advised agents in 2011 to avoid enforcement activities at “sensitive locations,” which includes schools, hospitals and churches.